Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Gluten-Free Shopping 101

If you pay attention to food trends, it’s hard not to notice that a lot of people are going “gluten free” these days. So, what does that mean exactly? Gluten refers to proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. Although oats do not actually have gluten proteins themselves, they can often be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains during harvest, storage or processing.

Why are so many folks opting to go gluten free? Some people suffer from a condition known as Celiac Disease, for whom exposure to gluten can be life threatening.  Others give up gluten because they have gluten sensitivities, which can result in a range of reactions from mild to severe, and some people find it just makes them feel better overall to cut gluten proteins out of their diets.

If you read my Food Allergies 101 piece last month, then you’re up to speed on the FDA’s “Top 8” allergens. Although wheat is one of the “Top 8”, the allergen labeling law does not apply to other gluten-containing grains. There are no requirements set forth by the FDA for manufacturers to list gluten on product packaging, or to call out gluten-containing grains like barley or rye by their common name on an ingredient list.

So what’s a gluten-free guy or gal to do? At Whole Foods Market® we have tons of gluten-free options, and resources to help you shop.

We have a dedicated Gluten Free Bakehouse that makes breads and sweet treats, and their products are available at all of our US and Canadian stores. On the labels of our 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market brand products, we call out rye, barley and oats in our ingredients statements. This is true for gluten-containing sub-ingredients as well.  For example, if the natural flavors in a product include barley, the ingredient statement would read: “…natural flavors (barley)…”

You might also want to check out our Gluten Free Special Diets shopping lists. We have a gluten-free product list tailored to each of our store locations. These can be viewed and printed out from your local store’s information page on our website. Some stores may also have these products in a gluten-free aisle.

We have many more tips and more than 1000 gluten-free recipes here on our website. You can search for recipes using our advanced recipe search and filter down to only recipes that are gluten free. You can also learn more about gluten-free products and resources on our special diets webpage.  

You can be sure also that “gluten free” has a meaningful definition at Whole Foods Market. We feel a gluten-free claim should mean that the gluten level in the product is below 20 ppm (parts per million), and that any product that makes gluten-free claims must have these claims substantiated by quality assurance and testing protocols that verify the gluten level.  Each and every product with a gluten-free shelf tag and all of the products on our Gluten-Free Special Diets lists have been reviewed by Team Members here at our headquarters to ensure they meet these guidelines.

Do you follow a gluten-free diet? What are some of your favorite gluten-free foods?